UNO 2014 – 29 new Type II Academy graduates and the CoCoSAR 100

- by John Banuelos

“Give your all to meIMG_1096
I'll give my all to you”

These words come a John Legend song.  How do these words connect to the 2014 Type II Academy? Well, read on.

In a tradition that reaches back to the beginning of CoCoSAR there has always been an Unexpected Night Out or UNO. Many generations of CoCoSAR Team members have gone through their UNO. Everyone remembers and has a special tale to tell about their night out.

On October 18 and 19, for 36 plus hours 29 student were run through stations of SAR skill sets, did endless miles of hiking, conducted multiple mocks searches all through the night into the wee hours of the next day, caught a few hours of sleep, if at all, and then capped off the UNO experience with a final rescue scenario in the post dawn hours. All 29 students persevered. They had dirty faces with smiles. All felt the relief of success as we all ate our breakfast under the old oak tree.

The Class of 2014 gave their all to us. And we of the CoCoSAR One Hundred gave our all to them.

These 29 will merge into the ranks of the CoCoSAR Two Hundred as ground pounders. I hope they join the ranks of the CoCoSAR One Hundred in support of the next generation of students that will attend the next Academies and will go through their own UNO in 2015.

As to the CoCoSAR One Hundred, they represent the ongoing spirit of giving their all. It is with great pride that I present the list of names for the 2014 CoCoSAR One Hundred. There were 111 contributors to the success of this year’s Academies and UNO.

     
Apfel, Judith Hirata, Alan Perez, Edward
Banuelos, John Hirata, Tami Piercy, Dana
Bates, Tom Hirata, Tori Plam, Pierce
Blue, Diane Hoffman, Nancy Poindexter, Roger
Borquez, Leslie Hubbard, Laura Retta, Chris
Boyce, Michael Hubinger, John Riggs, Casey
Buluran, Kristl Hunter, Autumn Riggs, Micheal
Carmody, Laura Huntington, Ron Rodrigues, Itales
Clark, Jim Israel, Joshua Rogers-Engle, Natane
Clark, Kevin Jones, Paul Rogers, Todd
Clymer, Laury Kalan, Jon Rutherford, Pamela
Coelho, Chris Kavanagh, Don Schimek, Brad
Comly, Andy Kovar, Rick Sembrat, Mark
Corum, Jamie Kwan, Vincent Shargel, Matt
Cossu, David Lamb, Steve Shih, Larry
Coyne, Dan Lane, Dennis Soo, Cameron
Csepely, Andreas Langley, Claudia Stein, Roger
Cummings, Michael Lynch, Darren Stinson, Ralf
Cunningham, Katelynn Mapel, Brian Sutter, John
Curran, Dawn Mathews, Alan Thomas, Lauren
Dees, Jeremiah McGraw, Lisa Tiernan, Jeff
Dodson, Patrick McMillan, Michael Tseung, Kerrie
Eichinger, Walter Medearis, Robert Venturino, John
Farasati, Reza Miller, Sheryl Volga, Michelle
Field, Cynthia Molascon, Ed Walker, Patrick
Filippoff, Steven Moschetti, Frank Walley, Bryan
Fok, Eric Moss, Paul Walton, Claire
Fong, Larry Murphy, Tim Webber, Steve
Franks, Randy Murray, Paul West, Paul
Garcia, Linda Murray, Scott White, Howard
Gaughen, Kathy Murray, Wilma Whiting, Mark
Gay, Jim Najarian, Rick Wilfer, Mark
Giberti, Kevin Neidhardt, Richard Witul, Janice
Gore, Natalie Nichols, Chris Wright, Jennifer
Harrison, Robert Novak, Phil Yee, Laishan
He, Henry Pangilinan, Luigi Young, Chris
Healy, Paul Peabody, Jack Zensius, Natalie

Class of 2014

By John BanuelosIMG_0195

31 new names will be added to the roster of CoCoSAR.
Every year, CoCoSAR garners the attention of volunteers who wish to contribute to their community. And every September, CoCoSAR conducts a Type 3 Academy to add to the ranks of the “200,” the number of volunteers maintained as a search force. On September 2, 31 individuals (24 adults with seven Cadets) started their introduction to search and rescue.

Each member gave up aspects of his/her life to attend 10 SAR Academy nights, plus gave up one full weekend to be trained in Urban Search and Rescue Type 4 tactics and hiked miles as part of a series of navigation exercises. None complained, all stayed on task, and throughout the entire process they tried to absorb every ounce of information that was offered. On October 6, they will attend one last night and will leave as full Type 3 members of CoCoSAR.

But wait! They are not done. On October 7, the Type 2 Academy will begin. Twenty-nine of the 31 new members will be there. We start with the Type 2 fitness hike and will end with the Unexpected Night Out (UNO) on October 19. Special note: Once again, the “CoCoSAR 100” has rallied.

The term “CoCoSAR 100” refers to those members that assist the Academy staff with the Type 3 and 2 Academy events.
Since the inception of the term, the “100” has never disappointed. To date, 88 individual members have instructed, proctored, coached, or have done any task needed to assist at an Academy night or weekend event. The call goes out and the “100” shows up in force.

A few remarkable members have shown up at every event. They did so because they wished to help. On average, each of these 88 members have assisted at least three times over the course of the Type 3 Academy. As we progress on through UNO, the final number will continue to grow. And as before, 100-plus members will have stood the watch over the next generation of CoCoSAR members.

Servio in comitatu heroes
I serve in the company of heroes.

The 2014 Type III Academy

It is that time of the year where the OES shines with bright and unblemished orange t-shirts proudly stating, Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue. 31 students make up the Class of 2014, 24 adults and 7 cadets. And like those that came before them the cycle of SAR education begins again: Navigation, knots, first aid, search tactics, etc. After two weeks these students reinforce their commitment to reach Type III status at each new Academy session. Type II status is certainly already on their minds.

On the Type III hike these 31 students gained their first feel of a 20 lb. pack, a hike covering street and rough terrain, and a mission to find clues. But they were not alone. Our CoCoSAR 100 (Team members that volunteer to be of service to the Academy) were there. 41 Team veterans attended the Type III hike. Every one of them was there to support these 31 students. 

To date 69 Team members have added their names to this year’s roll of the 2014 CoCoSAR 100. Thank you one and all

John P Banuelos
Academy SAR Sergeant
Servio in comitatu heroes
I serve in the company of heroes.

2014 Tracking Academy Update (Or, How to Tell If a Subject Is Near)

tracking

By John Banuelos

The 2014 Tracking Academy has added 11 new members to the ranks of Contra Costa Search and Rescue searchers who are considered track aware/trackers. This brings the total number of current SAR members who have passed the Tracking Academy since 2006 to 58 (15 from 2006 to 2009; 44 from 2011 to 2014). Seventeen are on the MRG and 20 are presently on the Hasty squad.  

Please congratulate the newest members when you see them:

1.    Boyce, Michael
2.    Field, Cynthia
3.    Garcia, Linda
4.    Levenson, Kathryn
5.    Rodrigues, Itales
6.    Rutherford, Pamela
7.    Sutter, John
8.    Tseung, Kerrie
9.    Walton, Claire
10. Wilson, Steven
11. Witul, Janice

Tracking Academy Class of 2014 – A Success Story

You never know when the skill of tracking can be of value. Janice Witul arrived late for a July 16 tracking training held at Shell Ridge. While the end of Marshall Drive is an oft-used tracking locale, the actual training site had not been announced. Our location was hidden away by the ridge itself, a good distance from the entrance, and conducted at a location we had never used before.

Janice, however, was resourceful and apparently well trained. She knew my shoe print by sight. She proceeded to cut for sign on the possible trail paths and found my tracks. She followed my prints on terrain that did not take sign well, plus they had been trampled by a host of runners, hikers and dogs.

She found us. Her first words were, “ I tracked John’s shoe print.” Points go to Janice for her excellent memory and the find. It seems Corporal Leslie Borquez’s demanding training program has shown a dividend.

Tracking means you can always be found. Ask Janice.

Semper Terra-
Inveni, Persequere, Exsequere!

Always the earth 
Find! Pursue! Follow to the end!

March Full Team Training

10001134_825720180788377_175787097_oMount Diablo State Park again played host to CoCoSAR’s monthly full-team training. The March edition was a Type 2 fitness hike. In contrast to the driving rain and wind that challenged searchers during the February mock search training, the March weather was postcard-perfect.

The hike is a 6-mile loop, circling the upper slopes of Mount Diablo with 1,600 feet of cumulative elevation gain. To maintain Type 2 status, each member must complete the course with a 20-pound pack in under 3 ½ hours.

Beginning from the Laurel Nook picnic area (2,900 feet), the route heads up Juniper Trail to the summit overflow lot (3,700 feet), then down the Summit and North Peak trails to Prospectors Gap (3,000 feet). The descent continues along Bald Ridge Trail to Murchio Gap and onto Meridian Ridge Road. Near the junction with Mitchell Canyon Road (2,000 feet), the climbing resumes up Deer Flat Road, with a difficult final mile back to Juniper Campground.

Larry Fong organized the training and reported 29 team members successfully completed the hike. An additional 30 team members provided support, as roving or stationary proctors on the course, time-keepers, medics and radio communications.

Four other Type 2 qualifying hikes are planned for 2014.

February Full Team Training

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CoCoSAR’s Mountain Rescue Group organized the February full-team training, a mock search in Mount Diablo State Park. “If it ain't raining; it ain't training,” said Chris Coelho, MRG sergeant, as dark gray storm clouds massed overhead and searchers gathered, bright orange and hooded, at the staging area.

Staging did not stay full for long because the search ramped up very quickly. Teams deployed to scour Mitchell Canyon for two missing subjects. “We put 52 searchers in the field within the first 30 minutes,” said Caroline Thomas-Jacobs, demonstrating an adjustment made by Command Post staff, following the mock night search training, in November 2013.

The first subject to be located, played by team member Natalie Zensius, required extraction by a technical rope rescue team. “I had a unique opportunity to experience what it feels like on the ‘other side’ and be rescued,” she said. “In less-than-stellar conditions, I was quickly warmed and stabilized so that I could be packaged and transported down the mountain.”

Shawn Inks, handling communications for Team 4, located the second subject. “I turned around and saw him,” he said, “but it was kind of lucky. The trail was muddy and treacherous, so we were mostly looking ahead and down.”

Weather was a major factor, hampering radio communications, as well as visibility and trail conditions. “If we had to search Mount Diablo in the rain, this is exactly what it would be like,” said Reza Farasati. “The problems we have today are the problems we’d have to overcome in a real search.”

Mock Search: November Full Team Training Recap

By Randy Franks

The fewer hours of daylight in fall and winter increase the likelihood of searching in the dark. With Standard Time bringing the onset of darkness even earlier, Contra Costa Search and Rescue used its November full-team training to conduct a nighttime mock search.

Wilma Murray developed the scenario, which was conducted on the Muir Heritage Land Trust’s Fernandez Ranch open space. Scouts and parents from Boy Scout Troop 277 and a few other willing individuals volunteered as the subjects and their distraught families, earning praise all around for not only the commitment of their time, but also well-acted roles and valuable observations during the after-action debrief.

“The guy we found, Graham, I figured he was playing the autistic boy we were briefed to expect,” said Don Kavanagh. “But a couple different times during the rescue, I thought ‘Is he actually autistic?’ He was into it, very well done.”

The scenario involved a small group of 12 and 13 year old boys who ventured into the hills to launch homemade rockets. The volatile fuel source detonated unexpectedly, causing a range of injuries and disorientation. As dusk descended on the hilly 700-acre preserve, CoCoSAR deployed first a hasty squad and then as a full team.

The team used its full range of techniques. The first mission was a hasty search of the Command Post and immediate surroundings, which located one of the subjects in good condition within 20 minutes. He was less than 100 feet from CP, but completely hidden from view.

Team lead Brad Schimek was pleased. “It’s my first find!” he said. “Even though this is ‘just training,’ I’m genuinely proud we found him so quickly.”

Wilma Murray said later, “I placed that subject expecting he would either be found immediately or possibly not at all. I’m pleased that the team did its job and searched the CP. It is not unknown for a subject to be found very close to where searchers gather and still go unfound for several operational periods.”

Some of the team’s specialized resources and equipment were brought to bear on the missions. “[Search dog] Shannon did some good work tonight,” said handler Jennifer Wright. “It turned out our search area did not have any subjects, so no finds, but we were working well together.”

The FLIR night vision goggles were also deployed with John Banuelos’ admonishment: “The subject or clue could be behind heavy foliage, so you’ve still got to be observant. It’s night vision, not x-ray vision.”

Many new Type 2 and Type 3 team members participated. This was their first opportunity to employ new skills in a full-team environment and discover that SAR is “continuous learning.”

Luigi Pangilinan became a debriefer, a role he had only heard about during the academy, but had not experienced nor specifically trained for. “It was difficult, getting detailed accounts of search areas, especially when the team was not provided a map,” he said. “And I got cold sitting there. I really wanted go out on a mission, just to warm up.”

Another lesson emerged from the night’s last find, made by Team 17. After assisting with a live medical event involving a parent volunteer observer, the team resumed its training assignment, making many voice callouts, hearing cries for help, but not locating any subjects within their search area.

Team lead Robert Medearis said, “As we were preparing to return to CP, our navigator was focusing on getting us back onto the trail. The other three of us continued the search behind our navigator. Routine visual sweeps identified the subject down near a large oak tree.”

Cameron Soo, handling medical for the team, said it demonstrated how “we’ve got to stay sharp at all times, like on the return to CP. The assignment was covered, but the search was obviously still on.”

During the team debriefing, Operations Lieutenant Chris Nichols summed up the basic message of the night’s training. “Searching in the dark is hard,” he said to a murmur of assent, “and, this time of year, we should expect to do a lot more of it.”

Urban Shield (October Team Training Recap)

By Randy Franks

P1010246The October full team training was a unique three-day opportunity for CoCoSAR to demonstrate its “people power,” supporting the 2013 Urban Shield Exercise.
 
As part of the region-wide event, the Contra Costa Sheriff and Coroner hosted a mass-fatality scenario simulating a passenger rail crash. The scenario, involving 150 dead and 250 injured, was designed to overwhelm local and regional capabilities and require federal assistance.
 
CoCoSAR team members assisted with site set-up on Friday, October 25, coordinated logistics and staffed the Incident Command Post during the exercise on Saturday, and assisted with break-down and clean up on Sunday.
 
Urban Shield was also chance to review the team’s role as a responding agency for the Contra Costa Operational Area All-Hazards Mass Fatality Plan. According to the plan, the team would conduct search missions related to the mass fatality event. This could include canine resources searching for remains and cadavers, or ground teams searching for missing subjects.
 
Screen Shot 2013-11-18 at 9.58.00 PM

A Family Support Center was deployed and staffed by the American Red Cross, CoCo Health Services and Emergency Medical Services, and CoCo Employment & Human Services. The Oregon State Medical Examiner’s disaster mortuary (DMORT) team was deployed as part of the federal assistance.
 
Alameda County Sheriff, San Mateo Sheriff, San Mateo Coroner, San Francisco Department of Emergency Management, San Francisco Medical Examiner and Marin Coroner participated in the scenario.

The CoCoSAR 100

By John Banuelos
 
Type III Academy 2013One of the chief assets of CoCoSAR is its size. We number at 200-plus members at any given time. This number of members allows us to send out a solid count of searchers at any one time to provide robust assistance, both in and out of couty. And if the first callout doesn’t bring enough searchers, the number will swell with the second callout.
 
However, for the Academy staff ,the power of 200 is magnified by the commitment of its members to “pay it forward” to a new generation of Academy students.  In 2012, over 100 members participated with the Class of 2012 and its 40 candidates.  In 2013, over 100 again participated with the Class of 2013 and its 31 candidates. It is a demonstration, in my mind, of our team’s enthusiasm to help. It is volunteers volunteering even more of their time to the development of the team.
 
Members helped as coaches, a resource that was repeatedly used by 2013 candidates. Coaches represented the kind and helpful face of CoCoSAR.
 
Type II Hike 2013Other members repeatedly served as instructors and proctors to help students understand navigation, first aid, radio communication and other miscellaneous SAR skills during many lecture portions of the academies. Many gave up weekends to assist in with the Type 3 USAR Type 4 skills Saturday, the navigation practical Sunday followed by the Type 2 low-angle rigging Sunday and the full weekend of fun known as UNO.
 
At times the proctors and team members exceeded the students themselves;
Orientation  - 41 members
Type 3 hike – 41 members
Type 2 Hike – 49 members
UNO – 57 members
 
UNO 2013USAR, MRG, Bike Team, and Tracking contributed resource members or introduced the skills of the resource to the academies.  Leaders of Search Management and Hasty were contributors to the academies and UNO.
 
No academy can progress without the contribution of team members.  To each and every one of you, the Academy staff wishes to say, “ Thank you!” I hope to see all of you at the academies of 2014.
 
And for those members who have just graduated, remember the gift you were given by the generations that came before you. Consider paying it forward in 2014.